What is a migraine?
About 25% of people with migraines experience aura. An aura is a migraine-specific symptom (usually tingling of arms, seeing flashes of light, or zigzag lines) that precede the migraine or accompanies it.
Migraines can occur at any time of the day, although in many cases they start in the morning. The pain may last for a few hours or up to one to two days. The frequency of a migraine attack varies from individual to individual. In some, it may occur once or twice a week, whereas, in others, it may occur once or twice a year. Migraine significantly diminishes a person’s quality of life.
Migraine is the third most prevalent disease and affects about one billion people worldwide.
What causes migraines?
The exact cause of migraines is unknown. Researchers think that migraine occurs because of an increase in the level of neurotransmitters, chemicals that send messages among the brain cells, in the brain.
This increase in neurotransmitters is believed to create overactive nerve cells, which in turn send signals to the trigeminal nerve that is responsible for the sensation in the head and face. Activation of the trigeminal nerve leads to the release of a set of chemicals that cause the blood vessels to swell and pain.
People with migraines react to a variety of factors and events, known as triggers. A combination of triggers may set off an attack.
Some common triggers include:
What causes migraines in women?
Migraine is most commonly seen in women. Every three out of four women are affected by migraines.
Some of the most common triggers affecting women are:
What are the types of migraines?
The two forms of migraine are migraine with aura and migraine without aura.
Migraine with aura: The person might observe the aura symptoms below 10 to 30 minutes before an attack or even accompanying the headache.
- Seeing flashing lights, zigzag lines, or blind spots
- Numbness or tingling in the face or hands
- Altered sense of smell, taste, or touch
- Feeling mentally “fuzzy”
Migraine without aura: The person does not have an aura but has all typical symptoms of an attack.
The symptoms of a migraine attack are:
How are migraine headaches treated?
There is no cure for migraine headaches. Medications along with some alternative therapies can treat or even prevent a migraine attack.
Medications commonly used in the treatment of migraines are:
- Triptans are the main group of medications used to manage migraines
- Imitrex (sumatriptan) as a shot or nasal spray. Good if you often get a stomach ache or throw up when you have migraines.
- Frova (frovatriptan) and Amerge (naratriptan) stay in your body for a long time, which would be helpful if your migraine tends to last a while.
- Pain relief medicines: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as paracetamol and naproxen have shown to be particularly effective.
- Nausea medicines: Medications such as domperidone and ondansetron.
- Some antidepressants, calcium-channel blockers, and beta-blockers can help prevent the attack.
Alternative therapies useful in treating migraine attack are
- Biofeedback: This technique involves recognizing the stressful situations that could trigger an attack.
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS): This technique involves sending a pulse of magnetic energy to the specific regions of the brain to stop or reduce pain.
Some lifestyle changes that can help prevent the attack include:
- Staying hydrated
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Exercising regularly but avoid exertion
- Keeping a track of all the triggers
- Taking preventive medicines to avoid migraine headaches around the time of periods
- Eating at regular intervals
- Reducing stress
- Avoiding foods that cause attacks
- Rubbing or applying the pressure to the spot where you feel pain
- Placing a cold cloth on the head during a headache
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